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Academic Nursing Commission Selects MC’s CNL Program Director for National Recognition

Jeanne Bernier said she is honored to gain recognition from an organization that
Jeanne Bernier said she is honored to gain recognition from an organization that "brings awareness to the progress our School of Nursing is making in advancing the CNL role and advancing graduate nursing education."

The nation’s most respected academic nursing organization has recognized one of Mississippi College’s first credentialed clinical nurse leader faculty members as the top educator in her specialty.

Jeanne Bernier, instructor and M.S.N. program director for the CNL in the School of Nursing at MC, received the 2023 CNL Educator Award from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing’s Commission on Nurse Certification Feb. 23 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.

The annual award, presented during the opening session of the 2023 CNL Summit, “Meeting the Moment: Integrating CNLs Throughout a Changing Healthcare System,” recognizes the contributions of the CNL faculty member in transforming nursing education and promoting innovation in both academia and practice.

Bernie said receiving a national award is gratifying because it lets others know about the great work being done at Mississippi College.

“I am truly honored to be recognized by such a prestigious nursing association, one that listens to nurses and leads innovative change to better nursing practice, nursing education, and nursing advancement,” Bernier said. “National recognition is incredible because it brings awareness to the progress our School of Nursing is making in advancing the CNL role and advancing graduate nursing education.”

Kimberly J. Sharp, dean of the School of Nursing at MC, said she is proud of Bernier’s accomplishment.

“Jeanne is an accomplished and progressive faculty member, infusing the graduate program with enthusiasm and confidence,” Sharp said. “Students start graduate studies with a lot of anxiety and a lack of confidence. However, Jeanne’s excellent leadership and creative problem-solving help tentative students develop confidence and focus as they move through the graduate CNL program.”

The clinical nurse leader is an evolving role developed by the AACN in collaboration with practice leaders to improve the quality of patient care and better prepare nurses to thrive in any setting where healthcare is delivered. These clinicians evaluate patient outcomes, identify risk, coordinate care, and implement quality improvement strategies to ensure patients benefit from the latest innovations in care delivery.

“There are currently no job listings for CNLs in Mississippi, so a lot of nurses don’t know what the CNL is or can do,” Bernier said. “This recognition and the visibility it provides is important in spreading the word about what the CNL is and what the CNL can do to improve hospital processes and patient outcomes.”

She said the time is ripe for nursing professionals to make their mark in the American healthcare community as clinical nurse leaders.

“I highly value the opportunity to teach adult learners, full-time working nurses who dedicate their time and energy into bettering themselves and the profession of nursing, especially with the monumental challenges that nurses are facing,” Bernier said. “I believe every nurse who wants to attain graduate-level education should be able to do so.

“Clinical nurse leaders are essential in today’s healthcare model. I am honored to be working toward growing this nursing specialty and eventually bringing it to Mississippi’s hospitals and health systems.”

Bernier obtained her B.S.N. from the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa and her M.S.N. from the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson. The established clinical nurse and unit manager with expertise in acute care joined the Mississippi College faculty in 2014. She teaches pharmacology, nursing content remediation and review, and Christian perspectives in ethics. Bernier received the Daisy Faculty Award at MC in 2017.

The Clinical Nurse Leaders Program in the MC School of Nursing enrolled its first students in the fall of 2019. Bernier, Karen Ivie, and Taylor Martin were the first MC faculty credentialed as CNLs.

Sharp appointed Bernier as the CNL Program Director. She has been active in creating pedagogy that includes quality improvement projects that students plan and initiate in their respective work environments. Her work in this area has served to promote change and improve quality in numerous healthcare systems. She works with students from the onset of their project until its completion in the capstone CNL course.

“Her oversight has assisted students in developing CNL role competencies within acute care facilities and outpatient healthcare settings,” Sharp said. “She works closely with preceptors to mentor students in the clinical leadership role, working within interdisciplinary teams at multiple healthcare systems. Her mastery of the CNL role underpins this endeavor as well as her outstanding clinical knowledge and experience.”

Bernier serves on the CNL Summit Planning Committee, and she and Ivie are both item writers for the CNC CNL Certification Exam. Bernier’s paper exploring how nurse educators can better meet the needs of professional nurses interested in pursuing graduate education opportunities, “I Have the CNL Power to Teach,” was selected as the best faculty essay in a contest sponsored by the Commission on Nurse Certification last year.

“Jeanne has made an impact on the lives of many students in her career,” Sharp said. “Her abilities are first-rate and are valued by those who have been positively influenced by her excellent leadership abilities.”

Bernier is pursuing a Ph.D. at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. A resident of Knoxville, she attends Sacred Heart Cathedral. She credits her colleagues and students at MC for inspiring her to achieve the AACN CNC distinction.

“I thank Dr. Kimberly Sharp for encouraging me to take the CNL Certification Exam, for providing me the time and resources needed to earn the certification, and for allowing me to serve as the director since the start of the program. I also want to thank Karen Ivie for being an integral part of the MSN-CNL Program – her skill and creativity in online course development have enhanced our program, and my colleagues in the School of Nursing for their dedication to our students and to our faculty and staff team – their support of me has allowed me to dedicate my time and energy to the MSN-CNL Program.

“I’m sure all educators feel this way, but the MSN-CNL Program has the best students in the world. Their dedication to their studies, to Mississippi College, and above all, to improving patient care and the profession of nursing is essential to the success of our program and of me as a CNL educator.”

As the “national voice” for academic nursing, the AACN works to establish quality standards for nursing education, assists schools in implementing those standards, influences the nursing profession to improve healthcare, and promotes public support for professional nursing education, research, and practice. The AACN represents 865 member schools of nursing at public and private universities nationwide.